April is “Women’s Eye Health and Safety Month,” an extremely important date for the Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute.

Unfortunately, women are more likely to have eye health issues than men, especially when it comes to eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  As a matter-of-fact, two-thirds of blindness and other forms of visual impairments occur in women. The National Eye Institute documents that more than 3 million women have dry eye compared to 1.5 million men – one of the reasons dry eye is more common in women is because it occurs after menopause or in women who experience menopause prematurely which can lead to eye surface damage. Women also experience more eye-related problems because they generally live longer than men and many vision problems are related to age.

If you are pregnant, you definitely want to see your eye doctor regularly as pregnancy can affect a woman’s eyes and cause vision changes including puffy eyelids, refractive changes and dry eyes due to hormonal changes. Fertility treatments can cause light sensitivity and spots in your vision.

Other reasons women tend to have more eye health related problems:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Sjögren’s, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Birth control (increases chances for cataracts and dry eye)
  • Breast Cancer – drugs taken to prevent breast cancer can cause or increase your risk of eye bleeds, cataracts, itchy eyes, and light sensitivity.
  • Some drugs may block tear ducts leading to chronic tearing.

On a more positive note, more than ¾ of visual impairment is estimated to be correctable or curable.  Some of the risk factors for vision problems:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Obesity

Eating right, maintaining a healthy weight, annual eye examinations and avoiding smoking can help to decrease your risks for eye-related problems. Your diet should include lots of water, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Too much sodium and caffeine can negatively affect not only your eye health but your overall health, so you will want to limit your daily intake of these items as well.

Early detection is key and annual eye exams with dilation is highly recommended, especially for women over 40.